A Navy F-35C and the plane it will replace, the F/A-18E Super Hornet, sit together on a runway.

WASHINGTON: The Boeing Super Hornet might have a new best friend in Congress. A year after the Saint Louis-built fighter jet’s biggest backer in Congress, then-Rep. Todd Akin, went down in electoral flames because of controversial remarks about “legitimate rape,” the influential chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Seapower, Rep. Randy Forbes, has… Keep reading →

PENTAGON: While the Air Force and the Marines stake their future on a great leap forward to the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy is taking what one officer called “baby steps” into the future: a careful, incremental upgrade of electronic warfare systems to jam enemy radar instead of just hiding from it. The fleet is moving, slowly but surely, from 1960s-vintage EA-6B Prowlers carrying 1970s-vintage jamming pods — complete with vacuum tubes — to supersonic EA-18G Growlers armed, as of 2020, with a digital Next-Generation Jammer.

Despite persistent rumors the Navy will cut back its F-35 purchase, the service remains officially committed to a carrier-launched version of the F-35, the F-35C. They’re just not counting on the F-35 to penetrate increasingly sophisticated air defenses on its own. Keep reading →

[Corrected 9:35 pm with a note about the EC-130 Compass Call] Is stealth still America’s silver bullet? Or are potential adversaries’ radars getting too smart for US aircraft to keep hiding from them?

That’s literally the trillion-dollar question, because the US military is investing massively in new stealth aircraft. At stake in this debate are not just budgets but America’s continued ability to project power around the world. Keep reading →

WHIDBEY ISLAND, WASHINGTON: “Every two weeks, we get another Growler,” Cmdr. Christopher Middleton said at the Navy’s electronic warfare hub here. The Navy target is to buy 114 EA-18G Growler aircraft. And it’s those Growler aircraft that will be the cutting edge of future Naval strikes against future “anti-access area denial” defenses like those being built by China.

To break through such defenses, the Navy is very publicly working on a joint “AirSea Battle” concept with the Air Force, but the two services have taken starkly different approaches to defeating enemy radar. Keep reading →

NATIONAL HARBOR: China‘s air force is laboring mightily to improve both its planes and its personnel — causing much American concern– but it has a long way yet to go.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is becoming “much smaller but much more technologically sophisticated,” said Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University, in a talk Monday afternoon at the Air Force Association’s annual conference here. Keep reading →

LAS VEGAS: Drones rule the skies over Afghanistan. But the next war may be a different story. “We’re fighting cavemen that aren’t shooting back,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Murray. “That’s not where we’re going.”

An enemy more high-tech than the Taliban — which doesn’t take much — could jam or hack the datalinks used to control American drones, or just plain shoot them down. Last year, Iran reportedly brought down a RQ-170 spy drone with a cyber attack. To survive in unfriendly skies, Murray said, unmanned aircraft must be “joint, common, interoperable, and survivable — and we are none of those things right now.” Keep reading →

FIGHTER DEMONSTRATION CENTER, ARLINGTON, VA: Lockheed Martin executives gathered to tout their F-35 Joint Strike Fighter dismissed a widely reported Pentagon estimate that the aircraft would ultimately cost $1.1 trillion to develop, build, and operate over 55 years. In fact, they argued, the F-35 will cost less to operate than the airplanes it will replace — a highly controversial claim.

“Lockheed Martin believes this aircraft is going to be about the same or even less to operate over the life of the program,” said Robert Rubino, a former Navy pilot who now heads the Navy portion of the Lockheed F-35 program. In the DoD estimate, he said, “they were using legacy data, legacy models” that don’t account for how the F-35 was designed with ease of maintenance and affordability in mind: “They don’t give credit for any of those enhancements.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Nixon, Ford, and Carter aren’t anyone’s three favorite presidents. But defense policymakers today could learn something from how they handled the hard times of the 1970s: They shifted costly security burdens to foreign partners while pulling US forces out, and they cut defense budgets generally while protecting long-term investments in “seed corn” technologies that would pay off later, like stealth then or robotics now.

Those are some surprising conclusions of a report on “Strategy In Austerity” being released today by Andrew Krepinevich and his co-authors at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Looking at both US and British history, the report argues that current prophesies of American decline are overstated. We’ve been in dire geostrategic and economic straits before, Krepinevich and company write, but we still managed to strategize our way out — and it didn’t take Founding Father-class leadership to do it. Keep reading →

The program executive officer for the problem-plagued F-35 said Thursday he has “great confidence” the multi-service fighter can deliver the oft-promised stealth and the sophisticated package of sensors. Keep reading →

Washington: What was once science-fiction could become reality on the modern battlefield — cloaking technology that can make huge weapons virtually “disappear” — at least to sensors searching for them.

British company BAE Systems will debut the system, known as ADAPTIV, 10 days from now at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference here. It is based on an interlocking set of individual tiles that are attached to the outside of virtually any military vehicle, creating a chain-mail like protective coating. Keep reading →

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